This month's Paris Motor Show will see the unveiling of BMW's latest i3 concept electric vehicle and this time around the German designers are taking the green concept as far as they can. And that's very, very green indeed!
So committed are BMW to the green concept that they've set up a whole new sub-brand the BMWi completely dedicated to the green agenda and emission-free motoring. Presumably the 'i' stands for 'intelligent' in line with the current trend of labelling everything with an 'i' before it, unnecessary as the BMW initials are already a name and logo that are a byword for intelligent design.
Already on show and very close to factory production are the i3 and i8 models that have two very different sensibilities and end-user functionality. The i3 is a fully electric EV city car with an everyday driving range of around 160 km whereas the i8 is a four-seater sporty plug-in hybrid that combines electric environmentalism and petrol-powered range. Both have been designed from scratch with the aim of maximising efficiency and for electrically driven motoring.
The City of Lights is set to see a green revolution that could make the extravagant Gallic bulb-burning seem a little outdated and uncool. Thei3's drivetrain is fully electric as in previous versions and there is still an extensive use of carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) to reduce weight, but this time there is a zealous commitment the use of sustainably-sourced materials all through the high-tech interior.
This is where high-tech luxury meets woolly-jumper wearing, bearded wholesomeness. Just look at the Eucalyptus wood dashboard, which is sourced from a sustainable source in Europe (meaning less carbon footprint on freight) and use of natural fibres such as wool and even a leather tanning agent that is extracted from olive leaves.
The focus at Paris we think though, will not be on the righteous interior but on the high-tech gadgetry that includes 8.8-inch Central Information Display, a 6.5-inch "instrument cluster" and a third screen for the audio and air-conditioning. More interesting though is how BMW are embracing the 'dual mode' transport system. Which, very sensibly integrates an alternative mode of transport, in this case the BMW iPedelec fold-up electric bike that sits comfortably in the trunk of the car and is even charged off the main battery cell. There's even enough space in the back for two of these bicycles.
Performance is what you would expect from a concept such as this with 0-100 kph in under eight seconds and a top speed of 150 kph, which is more than you will ever need in your city commute. Passenger safety is covered with a carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP) passenger cell and it certainly helps that this EV has doors unlike some of its competitors that seem to overlook that feature.
All-in-all Swide thinks this is the stand-out EV so far. It's zealously ecco-friendly, which we absolutely love, it's high-end design that moves the goal-posts on its competitors. The BMW i3 is apparently very close to reality and when it does become available we think it will become the EV standard by which all others are measured. But that all depends on the price, of course.
BY Hugo McCafferty